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Posted on Tue. May. 15, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

Whitley businessman arrested in Texas

Suspected of laundering money to aid drug cartel

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A Whitley County businessman and philanthropist is under investigation for laundering money for a drug cartel.

According to records in Collin County, Texas, Duane Ducharme was arrested last month outside of an office supply store in Plano, Texas, with a plastic tub in the trunk of his car filled with bundles of cash, “wrapped in a manner that is consistent with the way drug traffickers wrap currency prior to transporting the currency to Mexico.”

Ducharme, 70, was initially charged with money laundering in Texas, though it appears from Collin County court records the preliminary state case has been closed. He was released late last week from the Collin County Jail on a reduced $40,000 bond, but a federal criminal case is being put together, Collin County Judge Paul M. Raleeh said.

On April 13, investigators with the Texas Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration saw two vehicles at a storage facility in Plano. One of the vehicles, a black Honda SUV, had an Indiana license plate. The other car, a black Chevrolet Impala, had Texas plates and was driven by Ducharme. One of the men put a blue plastic tub in the trunk of the Impala.

The two men spoke for a minute and then Ducharme drove to a nearby OfficeMax and purchased a shipping box. When he came out of the store, agents approached him and identified themselves as law enforcement officers.

They asked him if he had been at the storage facility and he said yes. Ducharme said he was in town for business and had picked up some money to be used to purchase stock, according to court documents.

The agents asked him how much money and Ducharme said “several hundred thousand dollars.” They asked him to open the trunk and he complied. They opened the tub and saw four individually wrapped square bundles.

The man driving the SUV does not appear to have been charged with any crime. But when he was questioned by the agents, he told them that he had been with Ducharme for two days in the area on business. He said he gave Ducharme $500,000 in cash, which was placed in the plastic tub and then transferred at the storage area.

“(The man) advised Ducharme that (the man) didn’t want to go get the currency because he didn’t want to get caught by law enforcement,” the probable cause affidavit read. “(He) said he explained to Ducharme that the currency was the proceeds from the sale of illegal drugs. (He) stated that Ducharme had agreed to take the currency and buy stock in order to launder the currency.”

According to a prepared statement sent out in June 2008 when Ducharme joined the board of Ryan, a tax services company in Texas, Ducharme was described as a pioneer in the tax services industry.

He founded Ducharme, McMillen & Associates in 1973, sold the company in the mid-1990s but stayed on as chairman of the board until 2006. The company has an office in Fort Wayne.

Online property records indicate Ducharme owns a home in Whitley County, as well as property and businesses in Florida. Records also show a horse farm in his name, as well as a number of other companies such as Allograft Innovations, a company founded in 2006 that furnishes grafts for surgery.

Durcharme’s LinkedIn page lists him as the Chief Executive Officer of Allograft and another tissue bank, New Life Generation/Medigraft in Indianapolis. The phone number for Allograft went to a voice mail box, which was full.

A message left at New Generation was unreturned Monday afternoon, as was a message left for Ryan, the Texas tax services company.

According to IRS records, the Ducharme Foundation, based in Florida, gave $10,000 to Youth For Christ in Fort Wayne in 2010, and another $100,000 to Sarasota Baptist Church in Sarasota, Fla.

Interfaith Mission, Inc. in Columbia City also received $10,000 from the foundation.

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